Professional communications, are times changing?

smileyLee Desser recently wrote a blog post:  Are Happy Faces in Professional Communication So Bad?  Lee brings up a good point… know your audience.

Places a 🙂 would be no bueno

Cover Letter: You want to be professional.  It is much better to be a little too formal with someone than too informal.  I find it better if someone says “you can call me Al” (yes, I have heard that song) vs. “I would prefer it if you would call me Mr. Pollard.”  It is always easier to become more casual.

Resume: You are stating facts, not getting cute.  Be sure you are putting your best foot forward.  You never know who is looking at your resume.  Better safe than sorry.

Introduction Correspondence: If you are reaching out to someone for the first time, start off more formal.  Don’t assume a connection between you two that is not there yet.

Places a 🙂 may be OK or even help

Only someone with whom you have a relationship.  But keep in mind, that relationship must be felt by the person on the receiving end.  It can especially be helpful in continuing a more casual conversational tone.

Let’s say that during your on-site interviews a manager that you seemed to hit it off with jokes that he takes the closest parking spot because he is first in the office.  When you write the thank you email to that manager you could say something like “I hope to have the chance to work with you.  Don’t worry, I’ll still let you have the closest spot if I get there first :)”

But use a 🙂 incorrectly and it can be no bueno for you.  Personally I would avoid them unless you are 100% sure it will work.  It is like sarcasm… when it works, it really works.  But when it doesn’t, it pisses everyone off 🙂


Culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Peter Drucker

References, why they matter

referencesYes, it is true.  You can now leave “References available upon request” off of your resume.  But you might still need references in case an employer requests them.  Many people in HR don’t call references anymore because you usually get name, date and serial number but there still are some and some hiring managers who like them.

I mention this now because I do not think people are taking much care in preparing their references these days.  When it was more common nothing was usually gained by calling a reference.  But recently I have had some friends in the recruiting field get some interesting feedback from references that their candidate’s provided.  My first thought was “what idiot sends a company the name and number of someone without vetting them first?”

So here is the process I would follow….

Identify people who you think would be a good professional reference for you.  Ideally they have managed you, been managed by you or they were your customer.  Personal references are OK but we want the goods on your work history, not how you acted in Church or at family reunions.

Contact your potential references.  Shoot them an email then follow-up with a phone call.  This is a great time to renew those old networking contacts.  Start with something like “I am pursuing other employment opportunities and would like to know if you would be comfortable being a professional reference for me?”  Then when you follow up by phone you could ask them “what would you say is my biggest weakness?”  You want to know before a company hears it.  You might even decide to not put them on your list.

Contact them again when you actually send their information to a company as a reference.  It is usually helpful if they know what position you are applying for so they can tailor their responses accordingly.

Lastly, keep them informed about your job search, especially when it ends.  Even if you don’t need or use them be sure to thank them for being willing.  Also, stay in touch with these people, odds are you will need them again.


True friends say good things behind your back and bad things to your face.

Why you no write so good? Resume spelling errors

spellcheckMany companies and people believe spelling counts in the interview process:

If you make a spelling error on your resume, cover letter or emails you are NOT:
  1. Detail oriented
  2. Very interested in the position.
  3. All of the above

The answer in most companies is #3, all of the above.  While I do not agree with this much of the time consider a Wikipedia entry on the question.  If enough people believe it to be true then it is true.  The ultimate truth does not matter, perception rules.  So if most employers kick you out of contention or at the very least ding you for having a spelling error then you need to do your best to avoid such an error.

This  is a very important truth (perception) to keep in mind.  Let’s say you are applying for a recruiter position.  You have is all: the skills they want, the right education and you have a rock solid work history.  Unfortunately this is one of the bullet points on you resume:

  • Asses talent based on KSAs and work history to determine job fit.

Notice that the first word is the plural of ass and NOT the correct word, assess?  Most companies do.  I know what you are thinking… so what?  This is just one error.  Who doesn’t make mistakes?  I agree but let’s test this with the dating analogy…  How about if you are on a first date and your date is rude and demeaning to the waitstaff?  Do you REALLY think they are a nice person just because they are nice to you?  Nope.  But the truth may be that your date had a very frustrating day and they are not being themselves today.  No matter, there will probably not be a second date.

So be sure to take your time.  Double and triple check your work.  Have others  critique it.  You only get one chance to make a first impression.  Most people make mistakes because they are in a hurry.  Don’t rush, the stakes are too high.


A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.
John C. Maxwell

Applicant Tracking Systems – what not to do when you apply online

Apply-OnlineWe all do it… we see what looks like a really cool job and we think “why not apply?”  Then the pain begins…  You start the online application process.  Here are a few don’ts to pay attention to in the process.

Don’t skip steps: Most ATSs ask (require) you to create a profile.  The guise is you can be notified of future openings.  The real reason is so they can screen you out or in for this and possibly future openings.  I am not saying this is a bad thing, just that you need to pay attention from the beginning because one slip-up and the recruiter never sees your information.

Don’t rush through it:  Yes, I realize that it takes upwards of an hour to fill out just one online application.  But remember, the ATS is created for the employer, not for you.  Be sure you fill out all the areas.  Pay close attention to spelling and grammar.  Some people still think that a spelling error is a sign of a bad candidate/employee.

Don’t apply angry:  While you are completing an online application you will probably utter these words: “why do I need to type this in again?  I just uploaded my resume that includes that!”  Again, remember, the ATS is created for the employer, not for you.   That is why most ATSs want a separate field for each job (they can measure your tenure at each position), education, skills, etc…  It makes it easier for the Big Data people to turn your information in to 1s and 0s to be analyzed.  I do find it funny that the word “anal” is in analyzed 🙂

Don’t forget to save often:  If you are able to periodically save your work then do so.  If you think you are frustrated filling out an online application just wait till you get a power flash or you get a 404 error.  Then you get the pleasure of starting all over again.  Another trick is to type the information in Word and then paste it into the ATS.

Don’t trust spellcheck:  At the very least read everything you write out loud.  It is also a good idea to have someone else spellcheck it.

Don’t just apply and pray:  You want to network and try to get in front of the hiring manager or HR person at that company.  The only thing better than having your information show up in a company’s ATS search is to have the hiring manager or recruiter go looking for your information by name.  Most companies LOVE employee referrals, so try to connect to their employees directly or through social media.

It is true that only about 20% of people find their jobs through applying online.  But if you are part of that 20% do you really care?  Just allocate your job search time effectively.  Only spend about 20% of your time on job boards.


The difference between something good and something great is attention to detail.
Charles R. Swindoll

Employment testing

testingI listened to another great Freakanomics podcast this morning.  It was The Maddest Men of All.  In this podcast Michael Housman, chief analytics officer for Cornerstone OnDemand, talks about employment testing.  It seems that about 2/3rds of employers use some type of assessment in the hiring process.

First I want to come right out and say that I do not believe in testing.  Sure, some tests may be valid in assessing current skill levels (typing, programs, etc…) but they do not predict potential.  GPA’s sure don’t.  Thank goodness for some of us, me included.

But if you are in a job search, you need to be aware that often times what you think they are testing is not the thing they are testing.  Housman talks about how they have measured honesty in the past.  Just asking people if they are honest does not seem to work well, shock!  But Housman goes on to say that asking an applicant to rank their skill level and then later in the process test their skill level to compare the two worked very well to check for honesty.  Or at the very least it tests self-awareness, in my opinion.

So if you are confronted with a pre-employment survey, answer as honestly as possible.  Just remember, you don’t have to be little-kid honest.


Testing is overrated.
Jeff Rich

Speak Greek? Fraternities and Sororities on your resume

Greek LifeIn the spirit of full disclosure I was in a fraternity in college.   I cannot imagine my college years without being in the fraternity and I am not sure who I would be today without it.  But I also realize that a lot of negatives come out of fraternities so I realize that membership has its issues.  One of those come into play in your job search.  Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to put your Greek associations on your resume:

Did you hold an office?  If you were one of the leaders in your organization then it may benefit you to list it on your resume.  If you were just a dues paying member, maybe not.

Do you have other examples of leadership?  Resumes are all about relevancy and recency.  If you can show the same KSAs in other ways you may want to leave it off.

Has it been a few years?  I you are like me and you have lived more years after college than you did before college then all of your college organizations loose relevancy and they are not very recent, you probably want to leave it off.

Research who you will be interviewing with.  If they were in a Greek organization, especially if it was yours, list it.  It may not be right but there is a certain bond that lingers long after graduation, use it to your advantage.

Just remember that Fraternities and Sororities have gotten a bad reputation.  But so have bankers and I don’t see people leaving that off their resume.


It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.
Benjamin Franklin

Do you have access to your resume… Right now!

cloud storageNetworking should be an ongoing process.  Because of that you should keep your resume handy.  We are lucky.  Not that many years ago that would mean carrying around a hard copy with you.  Today you just need access to your Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, etc…  That is IF your resume is there AND it is up to date.

Keep it up to date.  Recently I have interviewed several candidates with outdated resumes.  I usually start off the phone interview going over their resume with them.  I even tell candidates my first two questions ahead of time!  It is not uncommon for the most recent part of their resume to be a little out of date.  I hear “Oh, I am no longer there” a lot.  I can handle that, although for many employers that is a BIG RED FLAG.  But, like I have said before, I am flexible.

What is less excusable is two weeks and two interviews later when we have our final interview, the exact same resume is provided with the same incorrect information.  I tell candidates to bring an updated version of their resume with them to the interview.  About 60% of the people who come to the final interview bring their resume with them.  Of those, about 50% of them have changed their resume.

Your resume should be a living thing.  You should update it regularly just as you do your LinkedIn profile.  You should also be able to access it and send it to someone when you need to.  Come to think of it, mine needs a little more work, if I can find it. 🙂


I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following.  
Mohandas Gandhi

What to do when you get Ghosted by a recruiter

Pac-man-ghostsThis happens to everyone.  You apply for a job and nothing.  You might get the “don’t call us, we’ll call you email” still, nothing… crickets.  You feel like you are back in high school and everyone breaks up with you by not calling.  Or maybe you are playing golf with a buddy and at the turn he asks “When did you and Caroline break up?”  My answer “We haven’t.” (OK, I should let that one go)

Many of us go through the job search like this.  We think we are out of the running for a job but we are actually still being considered.  Or more frequently we are counting on the company contacting us but they no intention of doing so.  First, I will talk about the why people get ghosted then what to do about it.


Recruiters are like the rest of us.  They have jobs. They usually have more work than they have time for and if they don’t get their job done the company will find someone else who will get it done.  People tend  to focus on what is measured, and candidate satisfaction is usually NOT a metric for recruiters.  Compound that with the fact that most companies do not care about the candidate experience because you are not their customer.

Some companies receive 100’s or 1000’s of applicants, many of whom are not even close to being qualified for the position.  Imagine trying to drive down a freeway if they let everyone on freeways; pedestrians, bicycles, horses, etc… it would be a MESS!  That is why most freeways have a minimum speed and only allow motorized vehicles.  Unfortunately there is nothing preventing unqualified people from applying.  To fix this companies run algorithms in their ATS to select the “most qualified” candidates.  If you do not have the right keywords then you may be out of luck.

Another way recruiters handle a large number of applicants is to just take a chunk at a time to work with.  If they do not find anyone in that group then they grab another chunk.  Maybe you applied at the wrong time.

But there are some of us who do care but remember no good deed goes unpunished.  I have followed up with people to let them know they did not make the cut and received emails like this:

Why did you email me to tell me I wasn't being considered for the job?  Thank you for wasting my time.
Your company is full of idiots, I wouldn't want to work there anyway.

After a while these “Ricky Bobbys” wear you down and you stop replying to everyone that applies.


First, DO NOT just apply, Apply and Adjure.  You need to be you own advocate.  Remember the dating analogy?  You want to show interest but you don’t want them asking about restraining orders. Don’t be a stalker.  It is a fine line and it is different for everyone so you need to pay attention to the signs.

Be patently persistent.  Since you ALWAYS ask what the next step is in the process and when you should hear from them, you know when to follow-up.  If they said you should hear something by Friday, then I feel it is a good idea to follow-up Saturday if you have not heard anything.  When following up always assume the best and be understanding.  Here are some BAD examples that I have received with my unwritten response below each one:

You said I would hear by Friday, it is now Saturday.

This is a statement, not a question.  No response necessary 🙂

Did you receive my previous email with my questions???

The excessive use of “?” is the main issue here.

I am assuming that you have hired someone else since I have not heard from you.

I will now.

Here are some much better responses that I have received:

You had mentioned that you would touch base with me Friday.   I know the week can get away from you but I want to make sure I have not missed your call or email.
I am still very excited about the opportunity.  Please let me know if you need any additional information.

You also want to follow-up with anyone you know that is an employee at the company you are interviewing with.  They may be able to nudge a decision maker in your favor if they are on the fence.  An employee may also have inside information on the position that they can provide.  If your contact at the company is a friend of yours you can ask detailed information but if it is an acquaintance, you may want to keep things more general:

I interviewed last week and I hope to have an opportunity to make it to the next round of interviews.
I feel like my interview went well.  They mentioned that they were making a decision last week but I have not heard anything, keep your fingers crossed.

So don’t assume you have been ghosted until you do your due diligence.  They may have not seen your information at all.  Your goal is to have the hiring manager or recruiter to reach into the black hole, that is their ATS, and pull your information out.  There is no ONE right way to get this done but you want to work as many avenues as possible.

Do your best to stay positive in your job search.  Negativity is no bueno.


Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
Bill Bradley

The one on one interview

interviewOne on one interviews are the mainstay of corporate America.  Here are a few things you can use to your advantage in a one on one interview.

Stereotypes: All us have stereotypes.  They are not always true but there are stereotypes for a reason. Use them to your advantage.  If someone went to the University of Alabama, they probably follow Alabama football.  It really helps to be observant and do your research ahead of time.  If you know who you interviewing with ahead of time be sure to look them up.  Where did they go to school, what is their work history, etc…  This will also help with the small talk part of any interview.  Just keep in mind that you are walking the line between confident and cocky / interested in them and stalking them.  Saying something like “I bet things were exciting at Countrywide Financial Corporation back in 2007” sounds a lot better than “How do you feel about being part of the real estate bubble popping in 07-08?”

Horns or Halo:  There is something called the horns or halo effect.  You want to make the best impression as soon as possible in the interview.  If they like you right off the bat the interview will likely be better for you.  A seasoned interviewer may know how to mitigate this effect but the fact is that an interviewer is much more likely to hire someone they like.

Follow up:  You only have to write one follow-up/thank you email so you can spend more time crafting it.  ALWAYS follow-up!  As I write this there are candidates whose interview outcome hinges on whether or not they follow-up with their interviewers.  A well crafted email definitely helps.

Connect with them: Find some common ground; school they attended, sports teams, fashion, technology, etc… This is where it really helps to be observant especially if you are interviewing in their office.  Be inquisitive: “I see you have a variable height desk, do you use it standing very often?”  not “Wow, those are expensive shoes, you must do pretty well around here.”

Body language: Mirror (but not exactly) their body language.  If they are sitting up straight and more formal you want to do the same.  If they are more casual, then you might want to cross your legs. It is also a good suggestion to match the cadence of their speech.  Don’t talk fast to a slow talker.

Ask for feedback: An interviewer is much more likely to give you some direct feedback when it is just you two in the room.  Many interviewers are worried about being judged by others just like you are as a candidate.  But if it is just you two, then they may be more forthcoming with information.

If you are prepared, interviews can actually be fun.  Where else in life are you encouraged to talk about yourself?


All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.
Mark Twain

Become a Nowist in your job search

I just watched a great 13 minute TED Talk from Joi Ito: Want to innovate? Become a “now-ist.”  He is speaking about innovation, but this applies to all parts of our lives, including your job search.  Don’t plan, do!

  • Don’t spend time worrying about what are you going to do when the recruiter calls, start applying for jobs.
  • Don’t worry about how someone will respond when you ask for an informational interview, call or email them now.
  • Don’t spend 50 hours on your resume, start asking for feedback from others.
  • Don’t focus on what you don’t have, can’t do or don’t know… focus on what you do have, can do and what you know.

Don’t worry about the HOW, do the NOW.

Joi Ito lays out a great argument for a few things that will make us successful in the PI (post-internet) era:

be CONNECTED: Why do we continue to try to do things alone?  As humans we are made to work together and we usually do it very well.  Find others to connect with where you can help them and they can help you.  I think we use to call that synergy.  LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media can be utilized for way more than just learning new recipes and who is doing what with whom.  These are your social networks, invest in expanding and contributing to them.

always LEARNING: I love that he says “Learn over Education.”  I totally admit that I have skin in this one.  My 2.48 BA in Criminal Justice did not open many doors for me.  GPAs do not predict long-term performance.  They do however, predict what college you will get into, so don’t ignore them.  You do not need to pay a fee, fill out an application, make a request or join a group to learn.  Innovators like MIT,, Coursera, and many others have made learning fun, easy and cheap.  One question many interviewers ask is “How do you/have you improved professionally?”  Life is not static, you are either moving forward or you are being left behind.

be fully AWARE: This includes being self-aware.  If we do not see the opportunities for us to improve or make a change, nothing will happen.  Think of the TV show Fear the Walking Dead (Yes, I am a Dead-Head) Travis, his family and the Salazars have figured out what is happening so they are leaving their neighborhood.  As they drive by we see  other families having a quiet dinner, unaware of the real situation.  Many times we see the sign posts in life but do we pay attention.  Many of us do not move over when the road sign says “lane ending.”  We drive until we run out of road.  What do you need to do today?

be super PRESENT:  Stop worrying about that will happen tomorrow, next week, or next year: What if I lose my job? What will we do when the kids grow up? How will we pay tuition next year?  I am not saying don’t plan at all, but don’t prioritize planning over action.  Here is an example from Beth Moore of what happens when we keep thinking “if this happens, then what?”  Start living in the now and making things happen.  You can fall into analysis paralysis very easily in life and your job search.  I’ll throw another one at you: how do you eat an elephant?…  yep, one bite at a time.  Won’t worry about eating the whole elephant, start taking bites.

have a COMPASS:  We need to know where we are going but we don’t need to have the entire route planned out.  “Compass over Maps” lets us move and figure it out along the way.  You rarely find yourself without resources along the way to somewhere so don’t worry about what will happen, get busy making it happen.  You hear about a moral compass but I have never heard of a moral map.  We need a job search, career and personal compass.

We need to work on being NOWISTs.  I know that investors, banks, boards of directors and other “business” people do not like going without a plan, but some of the biggest and best results are from being a Nowist.

One example of this was during Katrina.  The Coast Guard did not wait around making plans like the Federal Government did.  They headed to New Orleans and made things happen.  They saved more than 33,500 people including rescuing from peril 24,135 lives and evacuating 9,409 medical patients to safety.  This was from action, not planning.  They were able to do this because they stayed connected, had learned through cross-training, they were aware of the issues, and they were super-present in the moment.

What are going to do today as a Nowist?


P.S. This article may not be the best-written, most grammatically correct written piece but I got my butt out of bed at 6am on Saturday, made my coffee, turned on the computer, started reading my Twitter feed, watched Joi Ito's Ted Talk, and started writing.

Doing what needs to be done may not make you happy, but it will make you great.
George Bernard Shaw